Document Type

Presentation - Oral - to academic peers, less than or equal to 1 hour


Just a Prayer Away? Prayer, Subjective Happiness, Meaning in Life and Personal Growth in college students


Education & Psychology

Date of Activity



This study describes prayer behaviors and beliefs in 73 college students. Results from the Prayer Study Inventory reveal that students hold strong beliefs in the power of prayer, pray an average of 20 minutes on a daily basis and prayer is positively related to happiness. Previous research of prayer has focused on the effects that distant intercessory prayer has on physiological outcomes such as convalescing time following surgery, and quality of life outcomes such as stress. This approach to the study of prayer is fraught with methodological hurdles and philosophical challenges. It is clear that prayer is a frequently practiced behavior in the United States but few studies have examined the relationship between an individual’s praying behaviors and other positive psychological outcomes such as happiness, personal growth, and meaning in life. In addition, the prayer behaviors and practices of young adults have received scant empirical attention. Some researchers (e.g. Francis and Evans 1996, Francis, 2005, and Robbins and Francis, 2005) have posited that prayer plays a significant role in the purpose of life and the frequency of prayer in adolescents. The purpose of this study was to describe the relationships among the amount of time spent in prayer by a sample of college students and their subjective happiness, search and presence of meaning in life, and their personal growth. Seventy-three college students enrolled in one of three psychology courses completed a questionnaire that was comprised of several items on their beliefs about prayer, the amount of daily time they spent in prayer, and a report of the content of their prayers. In addition, the following scales were administered.: Personal Growth Initiative Scale, Subjective Happiness Scale, Meaning in Life Questionnaire, and the Satisfaction with Life Scale. Students reported a mean daily prayer of 20.30 minutes (SD = 15.78) and a mean of 4.33 (SD = 1.11) on a five-point rating scale of their belief that prayer has the power to change things. Pearson correlations revealed that subjective happiness is positively related to the time spent in daily prayer ( r(73) = .63, p = .01). Time spent in daily prayer showed weak non- statistically significant positive relationships to life satisfaction, the presence of meaning in life and personal growth. Interestingly, there was a negative relationship to search for meaning in life and time spent in daily prayer (r(73) = - .43, p = .11). The top three prayed for topics were family and family relationships, friends and academics. Sixty-six percent reported praying during the morning hours and 86% reported praying at night. Prayer is an important activity for many young adults attending college. The factors that might be related to how and why perceived happiness relates to time spent in prayer needs further study. It would be instructive to empirically investigate how prayer might play a role in young adults’ life decisions: the major ones and the day-to-day smaller ones. This is just a beginning; more prayer studies are needed.

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